360° Bubble Panoramas: How They Are Made
Only two images are needed to create these panoramas. I take one looking straight down from the kite using a simple rig, and a second looking straight up from the ground. Both images are shot with a circular fisheye lens that has a 180 degree view (Nikon FC-E9).
You can think of it as if each image contains a “hemisphere” of information: the image from the kite is the southern hemisphere, and the image from the ground is the northern hemisphere. When you rotate around in the image, you are viewing it from the center of a sphere that you're inside of. The image is projected onto the walls of the sphere; It's like being at the center of a bubble, looking around.
First, I touch up the two initial images, fixing color balance, contrast, etc.
The next step is to “unwrap” the circular images into rectangular images. For this, I use PTGui, an excellent software tool for warping and stitching images to create panoramas.
Finally, I bring these two images into Adobe Photoshop and combine them, using layers. I stretch the sky shot vertically so that any visible ground features can be hidden behind the ground shot in the composite image. Then I use a layer mask to make the seam between the two images as discreet as possible.
I learned this technique from Philo. See his site for more details on how to make kite aerial panoramas.
Award winning web site, 2003Canon Digital Creator's Contest web site
Photo taken from the kite
Photo taken from the ground
“Unwrapped” kite photo
“Unwrapped” ground photo
The finished result. Apple Quicktime projects this flat image onto a sphere as you rotate around.